Sunday, November 21, 2010

What is it about Portland?

Why does Portland understand the cyclist like no other city in this country? If you don't know what I mean, watch this video:

You see, a bike lane needs to be more than a line painted on a road. There needs to be an acknowledgment that automobiles pose a serious threat to our well-being as cyclists. A well-being we value greatly, hence the constant biking.
I'm not here to pontificate about what is a good bike lane and what is not, there is plenty of that out there. What I want to try and do is explore why Portland understands what makes a safe and inviting bike environment, while other municipalities just paint lines on roads and wonder why it's not enough.  I'm not going to answer these questions, because I don't have the time or energy to do the research. I'm just going to speculate because that takes very little time or energy.
   Could it be that Portland just has reached that point of critical mass that has pushed the city over the precipice. Now that they have enough cyclists the biking development seems to drive itself? I could imagine this becoming a very productive cycle, where better cycling facilities leads to more cyclists leads to even better cycling facilities and so on and so forth. 
  If this self-driven movement is the reason Portland is so good for bikes, then I want to know what was the seed that started the community? And how do I plant that seed where I live? I suppose this is partly why I write this blog, I feel if more people see how to bike commute in the triangle then maybe more will bike commute in the triangle, leading to better facilities to accommodate the growing biking community.
   Alternatively, Portland could have just been blessed with local government with excellent foresight and strong conservation ideology. Because of the green/progressive image I have of Portland, I am prone to believe local government has played a large role in the development of biking facilities in the city. Throw in a couple of city managers who ride bikes and WHAM, you get excellent cycling infrastructure. I am hesitant to believe even a strong local government alone could drive this development because of my time spent in Charlottesville, VA during a time when the mayor was strictly a bike commuter. I saw little good bike infrastructure develop during Mr. Cox's tenure as mayor.
   I'm guessing what Portland has is the perfect storm.  I know they have strong grassroots cycling community that pushes for new infrastructure.  They probably have a government willing and able to provide the new infrastructure, and work out creative solutions that make biking from A to B safe even for young children. Now, how do I get the perfect storm to come to my hometown?

1 comment:

Chris said...

Check out the latest issue of Bicycle Times. Lots of great new insight on how Portland is trying to spread the cycle-haven dream.